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Detroit News commentary contains false claims about hydrofracking

The Detroit News on Friday published a commentary by Jay Ambrose of the Scripps Howard News Service about hydrofracking that contained a couple of easily falsified claims. Addressing the issue of contamination by fracking liquids he writes:

For that to happen, as you can learn from several articles, much-diluted chemicals used in tiny amounts would have to rise thousands of feet and pass through solid rock without the benefit of fracking to reach the aquifers above. And if you say that sounds easy, listen to an EPA administrator quoted as saying fracking has never been shown to poison water. The EPA also concluded in a study that the chemicals pose no threat to human health.

The EPA has concluded no such thing. In fact, an old report that was recently rediscovered documents a clear case of contamination. And many other cases have been unavailable to researchers because the companies sued over it had the documents sealed so no one had access to them, including the EPA.

And it simply isn’t true that the liquid mix of chemicals has to pass through thousands of feet of solid rock to reach ground or surface waters. That isn’t how such contamination occurs because much of that liquid is then brought to the surface, not left thousands of feet underground. When it is brought back to the surface it can be spilled in a number of ways — from faulty cement caps on the well, from spills when transferring it into trucks to be taken elsewhere, and from detention ponds that aren’t adequate to contain the toxic mix (the image at the top of this post is of one such detention pond).

Only four months ago a blowout preventer on a Pennsylvania fracking well exploded, spilling thousands of gallons of fracking liquid across farmland and into streams and rivers. Local residents had to be evacuated.

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